Tag Archives: asian

“Yes Man” Says Yes to Stereotypes

by Guest Contributor Jehanzeb Dar, originally published at Islam on My Side

I really wanted to like this movie.

With its heartfelt message of optimism and living one’s life to the fullest, I thought “Yes Man” would be a film I could enjoy and appreciate after a week of exhaustive finals and papers. Yet it turns out that the film is filled with thoughtless and ridiculous stereotypes that make me feel anything but optimistic.

Before I saw the film, I already detected some suspicion about the film. A good friend of mine had read the book of the same title and told me the author was motivated to “say ‘yes’ more” by an Indian man he met on a bus. The Indian man’s religion is not disclosed, but it could be argued that the Indian man was Muslim since the author searches for him at one point in the book and finds himself in a predominately Muslim part of town. Oh, and did I mention the book takes place in England?

Not only does the film adaptation take place in the United States, but it also removes the Indian and potentially Muslim character. Instead, the man who inspires the protagonist to “say ‘yes’ more” is a White English man played by Terrence Stamp. The producers must have felt that the audience wouldn’t have made a connection with a wise and inspirational Indian/non-White character.

After Jim Carrey’s character starts saying “yes” to everything, we see him checking his e-mail at work and one of the spam messages reads: “Persian Wife Finder.” An Iranian woman wearing a pink hijaab (headscarf) appears on the screen, while puffy clouds are on time-lapse in the background, and says “I am Faranoosh” as if she’s some kind of character you can select from a “Tekken” video game. As she rotates her body to make herself look alluring, the wind blows her scarf into her face, mocking the way Iranian women supposedly dress and drawing ridiculous laughter from the audience.

What was up with that, Jim? Continue reading

Hair’s To Freedom

by Guest Contributor Neesha Meminger, originally published at Neesha Meminger

This weekend, I was interviewed for a magazine article. Nothing to do with my book, or even writing, for that matter. The topic of the hour was body image. This is a topic I could go on and on and ON about (and have, on several occasions), but I’ll refrain just this once.

Before the interview, all sorts of thoughts went through my head about what I might talk about — will I do the usual issue of weight and body size/shape? Would I go to the more familiar topic of areas of my body I’ve waged war with? Or would I go into the skin shade territory? So many areas to cover (no pun intended), not enough interview time . . .

So, when the lovely interviewer called me, we had a fantastic, lively, friendly discussion. It was fun and hilarious. We were about forty-five minutes through when I realized all I’d talked about was my hair. My hair. Not the usual trilogy: butt, boobs, belly. Not flab, sag, and lumps. Hair. And not body hair, either.

I had no idea what a huge issue hair has been all through my life. But as I talked to Ms. Lovely Interviewer, I realized that as a Sikh girl-child, then young woman, so many battles over control and power in my house were fought around the territory of my hair. I was not allowed to cut it, there were certain hairstyles I could not wear, and there was just so much IMPORTANCE placed on what I did or did not do with my hair. Continue reading

Gran Torino and Hmong Gangs in the Midwest

by Guest Contributor Joanna Eng

In Gran Torino, Clint Eastwood plays a bitter old man who’s basically the only white person left in a run-down neighborhood somewhere in the Midwest. He (reluctantly, at first) gets to know his Hmong neighbors, and ends up getting intricately involved in their lives, as they deal with issues caused by a local Hmong gang that some of their relatives are a part of.

There are plenty of things about the movie that might make for great posts on Racialicious:

1. Like most Hollywood movies that are about a community of people of color, Gran Torino features a white protagonist who not only saves the day, but also has the most layers of complexity to his personality.

2. As the first major Hollywood film about Hmong Americans, how did it do at depicting this community? Does the exposure of Hmong culture and the opportunity for Hmong actors outweigh the possible inaccuracies and negative representations? (See some of the commentary about this on AsianWeek.)

3. Clint Eastwood’s character’s constant racist remarks serve as a running joke in the movie. Just because he uses outdated and blatantly un-P.C. language with an “equal-opportunity discrimination” approach, is it OK to use this deeply offensive language as comic relief?

But I don’t really want to write about those things. I want to write about another reaction I had. Continue reading

Assimilated Beauty

by Guest Contributor Lisa Leong, originally published on the AZN Television blog

“That’s colonialism all over your face!”

The quote is from one of my favorite Asian American Studies professors on eyelid surgery, nose bridge implants, and any other kind of cosmetic surgery that transforms Asians physical features into more Caucasian ones. She meant that there is one standard of beauty—the Western one—that gets imprinted on our faces, our bodies, and our senses of self.

It’s easy to see that the Western ideal of blond-haired, blue-eyed, All-American (or Ayran, if you’re more sinister) beauty is the dominant standard. Look no further than the all-present world of popular media. Advertisements, TV, and movies glorify beautiful faces, but these beautiful faces don’t look anything like me—or you, probably. Every billboard says, “This is Beauty, and you are not quite it. Envy my bag, my hair, my look and my, uh, eyelids.”

Racialized plastic surgery is a popular topic on talk shows like Tyra and Montel. They raise the question: does eyelid surgery erase or enhance race? The audience nods along in agreement that eyelid surgery is a way for Asians to conform to white prettiness. The plastic surgeon and his patients say that they are just enhancing Asian looks. I may not have big, round eyes, but I can see perfectly well what’s going on here. Continue reading

Comprehensive new report on chinese americans

by Guest Contributor Angry Asian Man, originally published at Angry Asian Man

In November, the University of Maryland’s Asian American Studies Program, with support from OCA, released a major new study on Chinese Americans in the United States. Based on extensive U.S. Census data and independent interviews, A Portrait of Chinese Americans offers the most comprehensive and current portrait of the country’s diverse Chinese American population: Major Study of Chinese Americans Debunks ‘Model Minority’ Myth.

According to the study, Chinese Americans, one of the most highly educated groups in the nation, are confronted by a “glass ceiling,” unable to realize full occupational stature and success to match their efforts. The returns on Chinese Americans’ investment in education and “sweat equity” are “generally lower than those in the general and non-Hispanic White population.”

Continue reading

On Race and YA Lit

by Guest Contributor Neesha Meminger

Young Adult (YA) literature has exploded in recent years with the phenomenal success of the Harry Potter books, the Chronicles of Narnia, Tuck Everlasting, Lord of the Rings, the Gossip Girl series, The Princess Diaries, and the more recent Twilight series to name a few right off the top of my head. There are some who look down their noses at YA lit and don’t consider it real literature. But, given the success of the aforementioned novels and series, I blow a big, fat raspberry in those people’s general direction.

Kidding. But, seriously. My guess is that the reason all those titles, and many, many others in the YA or MG (middle grade) categories have been so successful is that they reach across age barriers. If you look at the audiences for Harry Potter, Gossip Girl, Lord of the Rings and Twilight – books and movies – you’ll find fans ranging from nine-year-olds all the way through to the middle-aged, paunch set. The same cannot be said for high literary novels, or children’s books. YA and upper MG novels are right smack in the middle and appeal to that vast swath of almost-adult to inching-out-of-adulthood readers. There are often subtle, mature themes, and usually no gratuitous violence or sex.

I write YA because that is a time that ideals were still strong and fresh.

When I write, it is as if I was on the cusp of adulthood where things were still simple: good and bad were easy to define, as were right and wrong. It was a time when my inner life was more vivid than my outer and there were constant, brutal clashes between the two. It was a time where creativity was wild, unencumbered by the expectations and restrictions of adulthood. Anger, pain, joy – all were raw, enormous forces. It is still the place I go when I am seeking unrefined, unfiltered Truth.

My first novel, a YA release, comes out in March, 2009, and the road to getting it published has been full of surprises. I belong to a group of first time authors with Young Adult (YA) and Middle Grade (MG) novels coming out in 2009. We are all working together to promote our first novels. We share resources, commiserate about bumps and bruises along the way, and rejoice in one another’s accomplishments. It is completely voluntary, and no one is obligated to do anything they don’t want to, except participate in whatever capacity they can. The group is a wonderful social and networking space with some amazingly talented authors and many future stars.

And yet, something about the group caught my notice.

I don’t have any hard data or statistics in front of me, but several weeks ago as I was answering questions for my first online author interview, I was startled to realize that I was one of three YA authors of Color debuting in 2009. Continue reading

You’re The Man Now, Dog!: The Racialicious Review of Slumdog Millionaire

By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García, also posted at The Instant Callback

You could say Slumdog Millionaire is too cute by half. But you can’t say it doesn’t do cute very well.

Adapted from the novel Q and A, Slumdog follows “uneducated” street kid Jamal (Dev Patel) through a Dickensian collision of money, love, poverty and hope against all odds. It’s the kind of fairy tale Hollywood can’t do without tripping over its’ own commercialism anymore. But the relentless pace set by Simon Beaufoy’s screenplay and the direction of Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan sacrifices schmaltz (and practically everything else) in the name of the quest of this most improbable (implausible?) hero.

We meet Jamal, a perpetually wide-eyed call-center drone, as he’s being “questioned” by Mumbai police. The kid has been doing well as a contestant on Kaun Banega Crorepati, the Indian version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? — too well for comfort, in fact. How could this urchin, this upstart, people are asking, be on the verge of winning the grand prize of 20 million Rupees when doctors and lawyers have fallen short? Continue reading

An increase in hate crimes during election season

by Guest Contributor Angry Asian Man, originally published at Angry Asian Man

SAALT (South Asian Americans Leading Together) has been keeping track of an increase in xenophobic violence and rhetoric against South Asians in the weeks and months leading up to the 2008 elections, including assaults targeting immigrants who either supported or were perceived to support President-Elect Obama. Here are a few examples of recent violence against South Asians and other communities of color:

  • Hardwick, New Jersey — On November 6, 2008, an incident occurred in which Alina and Gary Grewal found a cross burned on their front lawn. The cross was wrapped in a congratulatory banner the family had made which read “President Obama, Victory ’08″.
  • Carteret, New Jersey — On October 30, 2008, an incident occurred in which an elderly Sikh gentleman, Ajit Singh Chima, was punched and kicked repeatedly in the face, suffering fractures in his jaw and near his eyes. This occurred soon after a 10-year-old Sikh boy, Gagandeep Singh, was attacked on October 8, 2008, by an individual who pushed him to the ground and forcibly cut his hair.
  • Staten Island, New York — In early November, an incident occurred in which four white men beat a Liberian-American Muslim teenager, Ali Kamara, near his home. The attackers jumped out of a car and assaulted him with a baseball bat after shouting “Obama.”
  • Providence, Rhode Island — In September 2008, an incident occurred in which a Sikh-American man was accosted by an individual who said, “I have a gun in my car and since you are a hajii no one will care if I kill you. You know why the police won’t do anything? Because I got blond hair and blue eyes.” As the assailant left, he screamed, “F*** Arabs and F*** Obama.”

In light of these incidents, SAALT is re-circulating a basic factsheet on hate crimes with answers to frequently asked questions and resources for those in need. To learn more about the work SAALT is doing, and its services and resources for hate crime victims, visit the SAALT website here.